van longviewFor those of you who think having limited space limits your ability to garden, consider Vanessa. While true that she cannot grow large crops such as corn and winter squash, each year she maximizes her available space and enjoys a steady abundance of tomatoes, peppers, greens, and other seasonal staples. These annuals thrive next to perennials such as thyme, sage, and greens that reseed themselves year after year.

Vanessa’s garden is located in back of her apartment, along a fence separating her parking lot from her neighbors. To get the most from her garden, she succession plants, or plugs new, seasonally appropriate varieties into her bed once the previous plant has run its course (i.e., once it is too hot for her lettuce, she plugs in a pepper or basil plant).

van's potsVanessa also takes advantage of containers in order to increase her harvest. Using medium pots and lots of compost, she is able to grow a variety of tomatoes, eggplants,  and peppers, vegetables that normally take up a lot of space in the garden. But V’s resourcefulness doesn’t stop there.

Vanessa's CompostBy repurposing old windows and bricks, she has created a compost pile that will reduce the need for outside inputs and will boost the health of her soil. In fact, V doesn’t use any fertilizer. Rather, she relies on steady applications of compost to naturally boost her plants.

van's arugulaThe star of Vanessa’s garden is her arugula. When her grandfather immigrated from Italy, he brought this wild seed with him. Today, Vanessa grows that same arugula. And this is what I love about gardening — perserving familial and cultural traditions, ones that cannot be easily reproduced or purchased from a catalog. In fact, the arugula you see here is unique to Vanessa’s garden (and a few hillsides in Italy). This mighty little green packs a powerful punch, a peppery bite that enlivens drab salads and makes commerically available arugula taste like cardboard. It’s also a rather stunning plant, its thin leaves somewhat reminescent of the tomato.

So take heart, those of you who want to garden but don’t feel you have the space. With a little bit of ingenuity and creativity, you can transform even the smallest patch into a productive and beautiful garden.